Vagelis Stefanopoulos’ Pure Music


βαγγ4“Take the initial elements of it and recreate it from scratch. I think that’s the best way to create something unique but at the same time familiar,  and this one of my objectives when I write music.”

Vagelis Stefanopoulos

composes music in piano transferring pure natural energy, freshness and warmness at the same time. Just give a listen to his personal debut project Jazznovation. He is also a resident member of Adedeji Adetayo’s Neo Yoruba People since 2009, musical director of  “Q Orchestra”, while performing with and arranging for “Smokey Bandits” ensemble. Royal National Theatre (London), Documentary Festival (Thessaloniki), European music day (Athens), Ermoupoli Festival (Syros), Vlasti Earth Festival (Kozani), African Festival (Athens), Benaki museum, Gazarte live stage. He has shared the stage with JD Watler, Deborah J. Carter, Mark Zandveld, Aldo Lopez Gavilan, Sara Leib.

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The Vangelis Stefanopoulos Trio

was founded in 2011 with bassist Petros Varthakouris and drummer Yiannis Angelopoulos. The debut album “Sailing on a marsipus” was released  in January 2012 featuring world famous jazz vocalist Jd Walter.The launch in Benaki Museum was a sold-out event.

Vagelis Stefanopoulos Interview

— Vagelis, you have studied classical music and piano. So, why did you choose to work with Jazz?

I was always attracted to jazz rhythms and harmonies  even from my teenage years. But even earlier than that I wanted to compose as well as perform and jazz music is a platform that you can and must combine those two things. This is what improvisation is all about. Conceiving an idea and having the dexterity over your instrument to realize it. Another reason for that decision was the fact that in jazz music you are allowed to do anything, as it is still an alive and evolving musical genre. That freedom is a vital condition in order for me to create.

–But, do Greeks play or listen this kind of music?

Yes they do! Jazz is not commercial music anymore and not everybody can follow it. That’s a global phenomenon and Greece is not an exception. However the Greek Jazz scene is at its best I’ve known it right now and hopefully it will keep on rising.

–Listening your compositions I get a little of African and maybe a little of latin atmosphere, in some cases. Also,  there are a lot of improvisations. Which are your personal influences on music ? 

I have learned a lot from Latin and African music which are very related geners by the way. Apart form the main practice that every jazz musician has to do which is the so called jazz standards I believe that someone has to dig down to the roots of this music. Take the initial elements of it and recreate it from scratch. I think that’s the best way to create something unique but at the same time familiar,  and this one of my objectives when I write music.

–How did it happened to work with Petros Varthakouris and Yiannis Aggelopoulos creating  the Vaggelis Stefanopoulos Trio ?

Petros and Yiannis are a very well bonded rhythm section. They have played together in countless occasions and in some of them I’ve joined them too. This fact, plus the common aesthetics that we share made them for me the first option for drums and bass. I am very glad that they got on board and they supported the music in the best possible way

–On February of 2012  the debut album of VS3 “Sailing on marsipus”  was released. Regarding the concept of the album ( music, cover, titles, etc.) it seems like it refers to a journey, am I right ?

Yes it does. First of all the roots of each composition are traced in various places of the planet. To give you one example, “Oduduah” is a chant originating from Nigeria-Africa. Then it was taken along with the slaves in Cuba. From there it was carried over to London UK by Aldo Lopez Gavilan who was a colleague and a dear friend of mine in college. Aldo showed me his arrangement of the tune and I fell in love with it instantly. Then I brought it to Greece and I re-arranged Aldo’s arrangement. That seems to me a long way to go. Also keep in mind that this whole trip took a few centuries and its not over yet.

Apart from that the atmosphere and the sequence of the tunes seem to give somehow that impression of a journey so the cover and the titles had to follow what the music says. The cover by the way is a beautiful photo by George Saitas.

–How was the album’s journey so far?

If you are talking about sales, all I can say is that I am happy considering that CD sales are generally not on their peak at the moment and I don’t do downloads. That’s because I believe that this is a concept album and should be treated as one. On the musical side of things, although it was recorded one and a half year ago it is still as fresh and challenging to perform as it was at the time. We alter the tunes each time we play and the music is filtered each time according to the mood and influences we (the trio) have on each period. In other words its still alive and moving!

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–I read on your blog a description for the album “Sailing on marsipus” saying “It explores the idea and raises the question of how the world would look like with out the bias influence of memory”. Do you think that modern world needs “to erase memory”?

I would say leave aside for a bit…you see, when a human walks in to a familiar space -like his living room for example- once he checks that a few objects are in their usual place and state, the brain doesn’t bother to check for the rest of them. It simply prefers to use the already stored image of this room. In other words you look but you don’t see! I don’t think we need to erase our memory but maybe find the way to see more with our eyes whenever needed.

–Any future plans ?

I would like to record some new stuff with the trio this spring. However I still don’t know what kind of form this recording might take. Its gonna be a surprise, at least for me.

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Visit Vagelis Stefanopoulos Official website

Listen the “Sailing on a marsipus” album 

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